I don’t know about you, but as a yoga teacher I find myself wearing many faces, and they’re all real.
We are one thing to one person and something else to another. All of which is fine and dandy.
I wear many faces in my family as well. Being able to play multiple roles is all a part of the human experience, which I’m happy to do because my yoga practice makes me flexible in every sense of the word, right?
So to my students here are some of the faces I wear. (I could write a book about them all.)
1. Teacher—the face that you see most often. This is me in front of the class leading you into opening your hearts and hamstrings. Guiding you to find strength and balance in some crazy arm balance. Encouraging grounded steadiness in standing poses. Somewhere in there I crack a few jokes, help stare down the face of fear in handstand or drop backs, and in the end I probably get more out of this face than you do. (Shh! Yoga teacher secret.)
2. Therapist—this really should be the “empathetic ear face” but that doesn’t sound catchy. This is the face that gives hugs, listens and lends a shoulder to cry on. This face celebrates every triumph and breakthrough with you from the first time you kick up into handstand to the first time your touch your foot to your head. I’ll even do an embarrassing happy dance when you finally figure out the difference between Warrior I and II.
3. Gynecologist/Urologist—as well as podiatrist, cardiologist, optometrist, massage therapist and chiropractor. I love all your questions. And I love that you trust me with them. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll have a business card of a referral waiting to hand you.
4. Spiritual Advisor—I can honestly say this is one face I try to not put on as much. It’s not because I have an issue with spirituality, but because I feel it’s truly personal. So feel free to ask for my opinion. I’ll be happy to share my experiences, (some of the relevant personal ones) but I won’t, or can’t give you any direct answers because your experience of the universe is unique. If I clearly hear you wanting to go in a certain direction, again, I got referral business cards.
5. Nutritionist—considering my sugar addiction, I find this face the funniest. Yes, I drink green smoothies. Eat kale and love healthy food. But I also rarely turn down dessert (if you’re wondering, key lime pie or red velvet cake—don’t ever flash these in front of my face unless you want to see me eat like a ravenous animal). I love margaritas and my friends can tell you how I can put a hurtin’ on chips and queso. Moderation. That’s the best advice I have.
6. Bar tender—because let’s face it, sometimes you need a drink. And that doesn’t have to be alcohol. Feeling bad? I’ll boil some water for tea. Parched after class? Let’s get you some refreshing cool water. Still need a pick me up after early morning vinyasa? The coffee shop is around the corner, and they sell scones. But if you ever need to crack open a bottle of wine and bitch about your latest and greatest, I’m in for that too.
7. Tough Love Giver—I won’t always be your cheerleader. I can’t. It’s not my nature. Just as Oscar Wilde says, “True friends stab you in the front.” I’m going to call it as I see it. If you’re working half-assed, you’re going to hear about it. If you’re talking down to yourself, I’m going to call you on it. If you keep repeating the same habit over and over, I’m going to turn into Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for ya?”
8. Fashion Consultant—yes, I like my yoga clothes too. And yes, I like yours too. I’m always happy to share where my clothing came from. You know that’s why companies give me an instructor discount, so I showcase their clothing. So no secrets in this department.
9. Friend—this is the face I treasure the most. I completely understand when you introduce me to your grandmother as your yoga teacher. But I know you see me first and foremost as a person when my title changes to friend.
10. Human Being—this is the face I hope that you’ll all see. I have never claimed, (and I know you will keep me honest) to be anything but human. I get grumpy, a lot. I, too, sometimes need to cry. And I most certainly make mistakes. But what picks me up again over and over is you, knowing that you need me and that I need you.
In the end, it isn’t about a student and teacher hierarchy, but about human beings relating to each other. You teach me so much more than I can ever teach you.
Dara is a free-wheeling, yet often serious gal, who began practicing yoga in the early years of college as a way to counter her gym workout crazed tendencies. Her practice has taught her to speak with more clarity, to listen with more than her ears and to have more patience with others (ok, still working on the last part). As a formerly licensed and certified Anusara yoga instructor, she’s shared her yoga practice with a wide audience in a variety of forums. In the end, she’s happy with her life as a yoga instructor and public health educator who lives with a dominating, fuzzy cat and everyday is learning to negotiate the dating world.
Hang with, or message Dara on Facebook.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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